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UK shoppers face shortages at grocery stores

written by Bella Palmer
uk-shoppers

Shops are not getting products delivered to them as rules making it harder to hire EU citizens have left haulage companies with a drastic shortage of lorry drivers

A wide range of businesses have suffered through shortages for several months in the UK -- from milkshakes at McDonald's to beer at a pub chain to mattresses at Ikea.

But shoppers are also facing empty shelves for things as basic as water and milk at UK supermarkets and grocery stores.

The Covid crisis has severely disrupted the global supply chain, but Britain's exit from the European Union (EU) late last year has exacerbated the problem in the UK.

Shops are not getting products delivered to them as rules making it harder to hire EU citizens have left haulage companies with a drastic shortage of lorry drivers.

Many people who returned to their home countries from Britain during the lockdown have not returned.

Co-op, a cooperative supermarket group, said it was impacted by some patchy distribution to its deliveries but it was working with suppliers to re-stock quickly.

The group said it was recruiting 3,000 temporary workers to keep depots working to capacity and stores stocked as quickly as possible.

According to recent estimates, the UK currently faces a shortage of nearly 100,000 lorry drivers.

Frozen-food group Iceland and retail giant Tesco has warned of Christmas shortages.

Iceland head Richard Walker said the company has reduced deliveries as it has 100 fewer drivers than it needs.

Every day we are missing around 10 percent of the stock we have ordered into our depots, he wrote in a blog, adding that "when things were at their worst" its sole bread supplier was unable to deliver to as many as 130 stores per day.

According to a note by research consultancy Capital Economics, shortages of goods in the UK will probably last for a while and may even intensify further.

A report this week from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) cited the Road Haulage Association as saying it would take at least 18 months to train enough Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers to replace those who have left.

For the CBI, the dual effects of Brexit and Covid-19 are a "perfect storm". Stock levels in relation to expected sales fell by more than 20 percent to a record low across the retail and distribution sector in August, according to the CBI.

The group has urged the government to be more flexible on immigration and add skilled lorry drivers to a list of professions that are short on workers.

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